Sunday, June 28, 2015

Let’s Talk About It

 Does clinical depression have a genetic cause? There’s no answer yet, but geneticists are studying it. My personal experience makes me think that it does. No one expects to find a specific gene related to depression; but there may be some combinations of genetic traits that makes a person predisposed to this problem.

The general reluctance to talk about any kind of mental disorder has kept it out of more than one family tree and published family history.  In my family, I think I can trace it back 3 generations.

I was diagnosed in the mid 1970s. My internist referred me to a wonderful psychiatrist who did a battery of tests. The terminology was different in those days and the diagnosis for me was “manic depressive depressive” meaning that my highs were not very high but my lows were very low. Medication helped and the Doctor taught me to cope with the up and down swings.  I will always be on medication.

My mother suffered with depression but she would not seek treatment.  Without going into details, I’ll just say that there were some difficult times when she was at her lowest. And her up times were not really “up”.

Nature or nurture?  Is my depression inherited or is it the result of living with my mother?

When I began genealogy research, I discovered that one of my mother’s maternal great uncles was committed to an insane asylum in 1895. I know only what I’ve read in his probate record, but he apparently knew he was not well. Years later his son was declared incompetent.

Is genetics at play here?

I suspect that my mother was not the only one of her generation to cope with depression nor am I the only one in my generation.  Too bad that I’m the only one willing to be open about it. I think we could learn from one another.

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